7 Easy Ways to Start Being a More Present Mom

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How many times do we hear “Mama, come play with me” or “Mama, look at this” and respond with “not right now, honey” or “after I do this”? I know I do it so many times every day.  I am always putting other activities in front of being present with my kiddos. Sometimes it’s things that have to be done, like changing a diaper or getting dinner on the table. But so often, it’s something that doesn’t need to be taking my attention.  Whether it’s scrolling through Facebook, doing the laundry, or whatever other thing is distracting me at the moment, it’s not nearly as important as being a more present mom to my kiddos. 

I’m blessed to be staying at home with my kids in this season of life, and so I spend a lot of time with them.  Even so, a lot of that time, I’m not being fully present with them. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s good to let children self entertain and learn how to play on their own. It’s good to take the time to clean up after a meal or send a text out to a friend. And it’s good to have time away, focusing on “mama” things. But our kids need us, they need our attention and our interest in the things they’re interested in. Even if it’s a quick moment of connection amidst a busy day, these moments of connection are what our children crave and thrive on.

7 Easy Ways to Start Being a More Present Mom

I fail in little (and big) ways every day in this journey to being more present.  My goal is that when my kids look back, they will remember me as a mom who loved them with all her heart and gave them the attention they needed. Not as the “wait until I’m done with ____” mom that I so often am right now. The following ideas are some of the things I’ve been trying on my journey to being a more present mom. Some I try to do every day, others every once in awhile.  See if there are any that will help you, too, on your journey to being more present with your children.

1) Put the phone down

Our phones are so addicting- between starting up this blog, keeping up with social media, and reading whatever funny article some acquaintance from high school posted, I feel like I’m always on it. I’ve started to put limits on myself- I can only have it when the kids are sleeping or eating, I keep it on the kitchen counter, or I can do this one task but then it goes away.  Find what works for you to put the phone down and be present with those in front of you. It’s okay to indulge every once in awhile, but we don’t want our kids thinking we love our phone more than we love them. 

2) Do activities you enjoy

I am way better at being a more present mom with my kids when we are doing something that I enjoy doing.  I love reading to my kids, so I try to incorporate that somewhere every day. Puzzles and painting are also go to’s for me as Nora has gotten older.  When I’m excited about something she’s doing, she gets even more excited to share it with me. Experiment with different games, toys, and activities to see what you enjoy doing. Do more of that!

Read More: Fun Indoor Activities that Both You and Your Kids will Love

                 

3) Invest in yourself

I am such a better mom when my cup is full. That is, when I take time for myself away from the kids, when I have some bit of quiet in the day. By putting myself first sometimes and taking the time I need, I’m able to come back refreshed and ready to take on tantrums and messes with a little more patience and a lot more love.  Sometimes that’s as easy as taking a shower (with no kids in the bathroom!) and sometimes, I need my husband to watch the kids while I go to Starbucks or the library. Whether it’s taking time to pray or have quiet in the morning, getting a workout in during naptime, or just simply taking a nice shower, find that thing that fills your cup and take the time to invest in yourself.

Read More: Self Care for the Mom That Thinks She Doesn’t Need It 

4) Include kids in household chores

I get so distracted from my kids when the house is a mess. I’m either away cleaning it or thinking about all of the things I need to do when I’m trying to play with them. By incorporating them in tasks like cooking, laundry, or sweeping, I’m able to practice being a more present mom to my kids while also getting the things I need to get done done. Sometimes this means it takes a little bit longer to get a task done, but so often they enjoy being a part of the process. Invite your little ones to do your to do list with you- you might be surprised at what they’re able to do!   

5) Turn up the music

I’m learning that putting on some music and having a dance party (or as Nora is starting to call them- talent shows) is one of the best things to reset my brain and prompt my being more present.  There’s something about dancing with my kiddos that adds a little extra joy to my day. Nora is starting to sing along to different songs and Charlie is a dancing machine, so it’s been really fun to share these times together.  Whether it’s “mama” music, old classics, or Toddler Radio on Pandora (my go to), put on some music and see what happens.

6) Get out of the house

I am such a better mom when we leave the house. When we’re at home, I have the dishes and laundry beckoning me, my phone is in easy reach, and I get bored of playing the same old games. Enter outings! Whether it’s something simple like going to the grocery store, or a bigger outing like going to the zoo, I’m able to disconnect from all of the things waiting for me at home, and just be present with my kiddos. Find those places that bring you joy, and include them in your weekly routine. Or if you’re having a bad day, just take that spontaneous trip to the park! Sometimes all we need is a good reset and getting out of the house does just that, allowing you to be a more present mom.

7) Soak in the hugs and snuggles 

My kiddos are still little, so they still enjoy getting mama snuggles. Sometimes all that I need to do to make a little one happy is pull them into my lap and spend some time snuggling and talking or reading a book.  By having that loving physical contact, we’re able to say to our kids that they matter without having to say it at all. Plus snuggling is good for our children’s and our own well-being.  We release oxytocin when we cuddle, which leads to happy feelings and bonding. So take some time to snuggle with your little ones today, if only for a couple minutes.

7 Easy Ways to Start Being a More Present Mom Today

The cliche is so true- kids grow big so fast. I want to make sure my children feel loved during the time that I’m blessed to have them. By being a more present mom, I hope to be their person when they need to talk, to be the one they turn to when they need a hug or some extra snuggles, and to be who they call whenever they’re in trouble. I’m starting on this journey now, and I hope that you’ll come along with me.  Let me know what you do to be more present with your kids by leaving a comment below or by chatting with us on Facebook or Instagram

Keep Reading: I’m Saying No Less to my Toddler- What I’m Saying Instead

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Embracing Mary as the Model of Motherhood

Embracing Mary as the Model of Motherhood
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Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord, May it be done to me according to your word (Luke 1:38)

These words were spoken by Mary after the angel Gabriel told her that she would soon be the mother of God.  I can’t even imagine being in that situation, much less reacting with the courage that Mary had. She had to have been scared, confused, and unsure. Her only question was how this could even happen, given she had no relations with a man. I would have had so many questions, I would have wanted so many more answers. But Mary was brave and sure in the Lord, and she responded with a resounding yes that allowed the world to be changed.  This yes and all that she did as a mother afterwards is why I look to Mary as the model of motherhood.

Mary inspires me so much. You see, Nora was our surprise honeymoon baby. She came at a time when we had so many other plans for our lives.  When that plus sign showed up, we were unsure and scared, but also filled with wonder and joy. God had a different, and bigger, plan for us than we did. Much like He had for Mary. Now, obviously, Nora is not Jesus, Son of God. My role as mother is not quite as daunting as the role Mary had to take on. Even so, it is overwhelming for me at times to think that God has given me these sweet kiddos to love on and raise up as well as I can. And so, I call on Mary often to help me through motherhood.  I look to her as one of my biggest role models, and I hope to follow her example as I figure out how to mother my own children.

Embracing Mary as the Model of Motherhood | I'm following Mary's fiat as our call to being Christian mothers. May we say yes to God in our motherhood. #ChristianMotherhood #MotherofGod #MaryQueenofPeace

It all starts with a Yes

“May it be done to me according to your word” is such a hard thought to swallow sometimes. I’m sure Mary had her own idea of what she wanted her life to look like- she was about to be married, to start off on her own journey of womanhood and being a wife. And when God presented this different path for her life’s journey, she swallowed any pride she had, any visions of what her life was to be, and just said “May it be done.” 

I often have my own visions of what my life is going to be.  Starting college, I thought I wanted to go into research and become a professor, but God led me a different direction. After college, I was going to go on to be a Physician’s Assistant, and God, again, led me a different direction.  Now, I have all of these ideas of how I’m going to raise my children, where we’re going to live, and how I’m going to live my life. But God tells me to calm down, all I have to do is follow God’s plan, one yes at a time. 

Parenting, and really life, is just a collection of brave yes’s to God. Some of them are really small, like waking up in the morning ready to take on another day with my kids. Others are much bigger, like having kids in the first place! A lot of times I don’t want to say yes to God- the yes looks really hard or scary.  I don’t have all of the details, I don’t know how it will all end up. But in these moments, I can look to Mary and see her bravery. I see that God wants our yes. Our yes to the big things that He is calling us to, our yes to being present to the people he’s put in our lives, our yes to Him. 

It’s okay to screw up sometimes

We don’t get a lot of stories from Jesus’ childhood in the Bible. In fact, one of the only stories we get is probably one of Mary’s worst moments.  When the Holy Family was traveling back from Jerusalem after the Passover, Mary and Joseph assumed that their twelve year old son was among their friends and relatives in the caravan. A day later, they realized Jesus was not with them, and they returned to Jerusalem to find him. Three days after that, they finally found him sitting in the temple among the teachers. Mary, as any mother would ask, said “‘Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.'” (Luke 2:41-52)

I probably would not have been as calm as Mary was upon finding my child after missing him for four days. She listened to him, not understanding what he was saying, and then brought him back home, keeping “all of these things in her heart.”  She had to be so scared for that time- she was in charge of the Son of God, and she had lost him! While I don’t recommend losing your kid, I think it’s so reassuring to know that even Mary, the mother of God screwed up once- and did it big!

This story helps me see that I don’t have to be the perfect mom to be the best mother for my kids. I am the mother that God chose for my particular children. This brings me back to the quote “When God put a calling on your life, He already factored in your stupidity.” God knows that we’ll make mistakes, He knows that some of them might be really big. But just like Mary, we can go back, we can figuratively (or literally) find our children, and start on the journey again. 

Embracing Mary as the Model of Motherhood | I'm following Mary's fiat as our call to being Christian mothers. May we say yes to God in our motherhood. #ChristianMotherhood #MotherofGod #MaryQueenofPeace

Plant seeds for our children

Mary prompted the start of Jesus’ miracles and teachings at the Wedding at Cana. He said it was not yet his time, but Mary, as all good mothers do, knew better. She didn’t push him to do anything or tell him exactly what to do, she just told the servers to “Do whatever he tells you.” And then Jesus performed his first miracle of turning water into wine (John 2:1-11).  Without Mary being there and giving him that little push to do what He was called to do, who knows when Jesus would have started his ministries. It definitely could have been that same day, or it could have happened much later. As mothers, our job is to plant the seeds so that one day our children may bloom in their own journey.

As Nora is getting older, I understand the temptation to plan out every moment of my kids’ lives, to want to tell them how to do every last thing.  I’m sure Mary felt this same way, knowing that her son was to go on to do really big things. But, just like Mary, I believe it is good, instead, to prompt, to open doors, to plant seeds.  This is so important in these little years that I am currently in, and probably even more so as kiddos grow up into adolescents and then adults. In the baby/toddler years, I can open their doors to learning, to kindness, and to love. I can’t make them do anything, not even sleep or eat! But I can lead them on their little life missions, planting the seeds for when they grow.

Just Be There Through it All

Mary had to go through one of the absolute worst things a mother could go through, standing at the foot of the Cross, watching her own child be tortured and crucified.  We can guess that Mary was in and out with Jesus throughout much of his ministry.  We know that she was praying for him every step of the way. He loved her dearly, and took time to address her as he was dying, telling one of his disciples to take her into his house (John 19:26-27).  One of the most convicting religious art pieces that I have ever seen is the Pieta by Michelangelo. It is the image of Mary holding Jesus after he was taken down from the cross. She was truly there from His very beginning up until His ending.

Pieta
Image by Jacques Savoye from Pixabay

While I truly hope that I will never have to suffer through one of my child’s deaths, it is our role as mothers to be there through every moment, high and low, in our children’s lives. Our jobs are never done, we must be always supporting them and, at the very least, always praying for them. We must keep saying yes to them and to God in His plan for us as their parent.  Mistakes may happen along the way, we may stumble in our path as parents, but, just like Mary, we can turn it around and start again. We must plant seeds, and prompt our children in their callings. Our journey as mothers may have twists and turns along the way, and we may feel like we have no idea what we are doing. In these moments, we can turn to Mary as our model of motherhood, knowing that she paved the way and is praying for us every step of the way. 

Keep Reading: Mother Teresa on How Love Can Change the World

If you’re looking to get to know Mary a little bit better check out one of the following books! 

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I’m Saying No Less to my Toddler- What I’m Saying Instead

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I’m on a journey to start saying no less to my kiddos. I didn’t realize how often I was saying it until Nora started to repeat my “No, Charlie, no!” as he rushed anything that I didn’t want him to go toward.  (Isn’t it fun when your children start mirroring you?) I read recently that the average one year old hears “no” more than 400 times a day, and I thought that that couldn’t be true. But then I thought about the fact that it’s not usually one no that screeches out of my mouth when Charlie gets into the toilet or Nora tries knocking Charlie over, it’s usually a tirade of no no no no no no!  So that stat doesn’t really surprise me anymore. 

Hearing only negative words, like no, stop, or don’t, can impact a child’s brain and frame of mind.  While there is definitely a time and place for saying no or stop, I don’t want to overuse these words to the point that they become ineffective or hurt my children’s psyches.  I want to help my kids grow up into positive and creative adults, something that could be limited by only hearing no all the time.  As I’ve talked about before, I’ve started this journey by creating yes spaces that they can explore without me having to say stop constantly.  I’ve also been analyzing my own reasons for saying no- is it because I’m being lazy and not wanting to be present or is it actually something they shouldn’t be doing? Most importantly, I’ve been working on the language that I’ve been using with them on a daily basis.  This has required some changes on my part, but I’ve seen great results, especially in my 2.5 year old! Here are some of the tactics I’ve been employing to start saying no less.

Say No Less to Your Toddler | Create a positive environment for your children through positive parenting and saying no less.  #GentleParenting #PositiveDiscipline #yesmom #positiveparenting

 

Redirect, Redirect, Redirect

Redirection is the only tactic I’ve really found to work in the just becoming mobile stage of development that Charlie is in, and it also works with my toddler too. Instead of yelling “No, no, no” at Charlie as he gets into the recycling or grabs the cat, I can physically get up and remove him from the situation.  I can also quickly think of something more exciting to entice him to turn around and come back my way, though this is just in the beginning stages of working. In the infant stage, they aren’t able to be reasoned with and are getting into things by way of exploration, not to make somebody angry (thought it doesn’t feel like it sometimes!). Therefore, physical redirection is the best way to refocus an infant without having to yell no.

This tactic also works with toddlers – at least sometimes. When I see that Nora is going to do something that will probably not end well or that I don’t want her to do, I default to yelling at her to stop it or say my “no, no, no!”  This usually ends up egging her on (she often thinks it’s hilarious when I yell at her…).  Or, it ends up with her in tears or a tantrum. I’ve found that by providing her with a different idea of something to do or physically picking her up and redirecting, I’m able to forego these behaviors. I use this tactic a lot when she is asking me to do something that I don’t want her to do (or that I don’t want to participate in for the 50th time). Instead, I can come up with a different fun idea that will hopefully take her attention instead. 

Examples:

How about we do ______ instead?

Let’s go play in your room for awhile next.

What’s a different game that we can play?

Change the Language From No to Yes

I’m really working on watching my language and changing it from negative to positive forms. This means that instead of saying “Don’t Run!,” I say “Please Walk!”  When given orders, children often focus only on the last words in the sentence.  When you preface a sentence with no, stop, or don’t, they don’t usually process the negative portion, but hear the words at the end and continue that action. By stating what you do want them to do rather than what you don’t want them to do, there is a much higher chance of it actually happening. 

This requires extra brain power on my part, so it’s been taking a little time to get the hang of it. It’s way easier to say stop doing something than to think of what I want them to do instead! However, I have found that when I do remember to switch it around, I have a much easier time communicating with Nora what I need from her leading me to less saying no.  Then, she’ll often follow through- though definitely not every time. She is two after all!

Examples: 

Instead of “Don’t pour out the bubbles”,  I can say “Keep the bubbles in the bottle.”

Instead of “No screaming in the house,” I can say “Outdoor noises outside and indoor noises inside.”

Instead of “Stop dumping out all of the pieces,” I can say “Put the pieces back in the box.”

Give Options to Avoid the Power Struggle

Nora is at the age where she is wanting to be the ruler of her own life. She likes to make the decisions of what we’re doing and how she’s going to do it, and she does not like to hear the word no.  This can contribute to a power struggle over silly things like what she’s wearing if I’m not careful. It also makes situations tough when we’re needing to get somewhere on time, and she really isn’t wanting to go.  I will often default to yelling or negative language in these situations, and it always ends in tears and a struggle. I’ve found that by instead offering options between items or ideas in which both outcomes are okay with me, I give her some of the power that she needs to feel in control, while actually staying in control of the situation myself.  

This also leads to me saying no less because I’m happy with either option that she has available. As long as I am giving fair choices to choose between, she’ll generally go along.  She has been known to say, “I don’t like those options,” which can sometimes make things harder. Through a little intentional communication, we can usually figure out a suitable choice that will work for both of us. By breaking it down to her level, I’m able to say no less and usually avoid any tantrums or tears.

Examples:

It’s too hot out to wear that, would you like to wear a dress or shorts?

Do you want to go potty now or after we read another book?

Would you like to hold my hand in the parking lot or do you need me to carry you?

State the Why

As Nora has gotten easier to reason with, sharing with her the reason behind why she can’t do something has worked really well. This often works best when I take the time to pull her to the side, give her snuggles, and validate what she is doing or feeling fits.  I then can state the action that she was doing that was bad and why I don’t want her to do said action. Usually, I’ll then go on to redirect or ask her what other actions she could do instead. By taking the time to sit down with her and be intentional, I can avoid the negative circle and hopefully she won’t continue to do that action in the future.

I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how fast Nora has caught onto some of the “whys” we have shared with her, allowing us to say no less to her in a lot of situations.  Our biggest one has been the things that we can’t do right now because a place is closed, it’s not a good thing to do when Charlie is awake, or we don’t have enough time. She’ll often catch on quickly and offer a time that could make sense to do it instead- and surprisingly remembers it when we get to that time!  We need to give our two year olds more credit than we think!

Examples:

I see that you like doing that, but that’s dangerous and I don’t want you to get hurt.

I love that you are having fun with Charlie, but I don’t like when you push him because it hurts him.

The library is closed until 10:00, and we can’t go inside until the librarian unlocks the doors.

Say No Less to Your Toddler | Create a positive environment for your children through positive parenting and saying no less.  #GentleParenting #PositiveDiscipline #yesmom #positiveparenting

I’m sure there are many other tactics to employ on the journey to saying no less to our toddlers and using positive language, but these are some of the ones that are working for us right now.  I’d love to hear your ideas as this is all a work in progress for us! I’m pretty sure I said no to the kiddos that 400 times just throughout the process of writing this post. By being intentional in the language we use and the environment we create for our kiddos, I hope to raise confident, creative, and kind adults that go on to do good things. Here’s to each step of that journey!

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Mother Teresa on How Love Can Change the World

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Thursday was St. Teresa of Calcutta’s feast day.  I meant to get this out then, but I got busy due to changed plans and visiting family!  Everyone loves Mother Teresa, so I figured I’d still share how I’ve been inspired by her lately. St Teresa of Calcutta was, and really still is, such an example of giving unlimited love, doing everything you can in the world, and listening to God’s plan. However, looking at her life can also be a little overwhelming- she was such a brave, devout, and busy woman. She gave and gave and gave and did soooo many great things.  But yet, the lessons that she taught those around her really focused on how her actions were really just a collection of small doings.  She shared how we too can love as she did. We don’t all have to go to the slums of Calcutta or even the slums of our own cities to make the world a better place. She said, instead, that we need to start at home, performing one act of love at a time.

Mother Teresa on How Love Can Change the World | Doing small things with great love to make the world a better place is what St. Teresa of Calcutta shared through her words and actions. #MotherTeresa #LoveFirst #ChristianMotherhood #ChangetheWorldthroughlove

“Spread love everywhere you go; first of all in your house. Give love to your children, to your wife or husband, to a next door neighbor. Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier.”

Sometimes I feel so overwhelmed with all of the ways that I could go out and help others. Our world can be a pretty dark and depressing place with so many people hurting, so many issues to fight on, and so much that could be done. It’s hard to keep up with the latest tragedy, to read the news right now without falling into despair or, worse, being so numb that we don’t feel anything anymore.  I’m someone who likes to be able to do something, and especially with two little people in tow right now, I feel like there’s just not much that I can legitimately go out and do. This has been really hard for me, and I often feel like I’m not doing my part to make the world a better place. 

But Mother Teresa had a different idea of how we can make the world a better place. She believed that we start with the people God put in front of us first. That means that I must start by loving my family, especially my kiddos and my husband, as best as I can.  In this, I am doing the work that God has called me to do. Mother Teresa often talked about the poverty of being uncared for, of feeling lonely and unloved. I’m sure we can all look around us and find at least one person in our life who is struggling with these feelings. By reaching out and doing what we can to make them feel loved and noticed, we are taking small steps in changing the world for the better.  Even this can seem hard at times, though, which brings us to another famous quote by Mama T.  

Mother Teresa on How Love Can Change the World | Doing small things with great love to make the world a better place is what St. Teresa of Calcutta shared through her words and actions. #MotherTeresa #LoveFirst #ChristianMotherhood #ChangetheWorldthroughlove

“I don’t do great things. I do small things with great love.”

I had this quote on my graduation cap- “do small things with great love” – and I try to live by it.  It truly is the small things that add up to the big things. Each small action I do in love for those around me adds to the culture of love in my life and in the lives of those around me.  In starting with my children, I’m able to build a foundation for them in which they know they are loved and can thrive. Each ouchie kissed, each book read, each extra snuggle adds up to the great love that they can flourish out of. The same goes for my husband. Every time I clean up dinner without complaining, recognize his needs before mine, or let him rant about his latest thing, I’m able to build up love in our marriage and in our home.  

The small things play out when we’re out and about too. I can choose to smile at the people in the grocery store aisles.  I can reach out and say hi to other moms at the library’s toddler time. I can look a homeless person in the eye when we pass them on the street. I can try to shop more ethically, buying items from places that treat their workers right. I can donate food or baby clothes or diapers or whatever else we have extra of.  There are so many small ways that we can make the lives of those around us better.  Just by recognizing the people in front of us using these small actions done with great love, we are able to make the world a better place.

Mother Teresa on How Love Can Change the World | Doing small things with great love to make the world a better place is what St. Teresa of Calcutta shared through her words and actions. #MotherTeresa #LoveFirst #ChristianMotherhood #ChangetheWorldthroughlove

“God doesn’t require us to succeed, he only requires that you try.”

This one is so so important. In attempting to be love to everyone around me, I burn myself out trying so hard to be the “perfect” parent, wife, neighbor, friend, daughter, etc. By taking baby steps and doing everything with love, Mother Teresa reminds me that it is really just the doing, the trying, that matters- I don’t need to do it all perfectly. At the same time, that doesn’t mean that we can become complacent because we “tried” and that’s what counts. It’s a new effort every day of loving the people God has put in front of us the best that we can. 

On my part, I am working on loving my children by being present with them and giving them my attention instead of getting sucked into things that don’t really matter.  Some days, I may yell and have no patience, some days they may hit their heads or get hurt too many times to count, and some days they may eat mac and cheese for every single meal. Yet, if I always come back and do my best to love them, that is truly what matters.  The same goes for my husband, other family members, friends, and even strangers.  Often, the “trying” is done in just being present with others, listening to them, and being the love that they need in their life.  We need to be open to whatever and whoever God is calling us to love and not be afraid to take the leap to love them even when it might feel a little uncomfortable or we don’t know if it’ll be received well.  We must try to do what we can to create change, even when we don’t know what the end result will be.

Mother Teresa on How Love Can Change the World | Doing small things with great love to make the world a better place is what St. Teresa of Calcutta shared through her words and actions. #MotherTeresa #LoveFirst #ChristianMotherhood #ChangetheWorldthroughlove

“I used to believe that prayer changes things, but now I know that prayer changes us, and we change things.”

One of my favorite stories of Mother Teresa is that of when one of the sisters in her convent approached her worrying that they didn’t have enough time to serve all of the people they needed to. Mother Teresa replied by saying that they must then increase their daily holy hour to two hours. For only through prayer would they be able to have the strength and peace to go out and do all of the work that is needed to be done.  Only through prayer do we realize that it is really God doing the work. By handing our work over to Him, He is able to multiply it, to make it more effective, and to create the world as it was meant to be.

I’m not currently able (or willing?) to have a daily holy hour not to mention two! In my stage of life, I’m happy when I get 20 minutes a day (especially if they’re in a row!) But even so, I know that when I do take that time with Jesus, I’m able to be a better mom, a better wife, and a better person in general.  I’m not sure how God does it, but He multiplies my time and keeps me present with my kids, husband, and others around me. Prayer also often challenges me to be a better person. It shows me areas I need to grow in, places where I haven’t been the kind of person God is calling to me. By giving whatever time that I’m able to give to him in my day, God multiplies it and changes me into a person who can then go out, love better, and create change in the world.

Mother Teresa knew what she was talking about, and she sure walked the walk. I aspire to be half as loving as she was, to be half as giving of myself as she was.  By following in Mother Teresa’s footsteps, as different as it may look in my life, I hope that I can become the person that I am meant to be.  I hope that I can spread love to those God has placed in my life through small actions rooted in love, and I pray that I am not held back from being love when I feel like I cannot succeed.  In doing all of these things, and in rooting myself in God through prayer, I know that I am doing my part to make this world a better place.  I hope that you’ll join me on the journey.

Want to get to know Mother Teresa a little better? Try out these awesome books! (The first is one of my personal favorites)

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How to Deal When Plans Change

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Hello from Wisconsin! With Hurricane Dorian possibly coming through Florida, we had a quick change in plans in order to spend the week with our parents in Wisconsin and not be in the possible pathway. Now, it looks like it probably won’t hit Tampa super hard, if at all, but we didn’t want to chance not having power with two little humans. Plus, we got a random family vacation out of it!

Sometimes I can swing with the punches really well, and sometimes it’s really hard for me to have plans change. This time was a little of both.  Tony had been out of town for the week for work, so I was already pretty exhausted.  On Thursday, Tony called to say we should think about booking flights back to Wisconsin on Saturday so that we could beat the rush.  During this phone call, I kind of freaked out. Planning a plane trip for two little people with only two days notice is a large task. But as we started to flesh out the details and think more about why we needed to do it, the stress went away.

You see, I’m a planner. I have lists for my lists. This expedition was not written on my calendar. I was supposed to get a nice afternoon at Starbucks on Saturday and some downtime scattered throughout the weekend. At least, that’s what I had written down. But so many times, plans change and we just have to accept it and allow it to happen. This happens in big ways (like a surprise baby- Oh hey, Nora!) or in small ways (like it rained and we can’t go to the park anymore).  I’m seeing in Nora now a lot of my own stress when plans change. Who knows if it’s nature or nurture, but either way, I’m trying to work on my own self regulation methods so that I can help her when she’s having trouble too. These are some of the ones that are working for me personally right now:

1) Start with Prayer

This is the biggie. Sometimes I forget that God’s got it. I’m not and don’t have to be in control. By bringing what’s stressing me into prayer, I can find relief in one of two ways. Either, I find that it is something small that I don’t actually need to be stressing about (which is most of the time), or God helps me think through the stresser with more clarity and logic.  A lot of the time, I go in a downward spiral and start thinking about all of the extraneous details and get a little irrational. By taking a step back and giving it to God to look at it with me, I’m able to regain my senses and think a little more rationally.

I’ve been trying to start with prayer in these situations, even if it’s just a short “what am I supposed to do here, God?” when I’m figuring out how to deal with the changed plans.  Many times, I forget to give it up to Him and, instead, take it all on myself. I try to control the situations that can’t be controlled. When I do start in prayer, the stress is shorter lived and I’m able to roll with the punches with much more grace.

2) Make one decision and then the next

Often, I look at the change of plans as this huge task that I have to take on. Whether it’s something crazy like a quickly booked plane trip out of FL or something simple like hosting unexpected guests, it often feels like there are too many things that need to get done in the short time allotted. I’ve learned that by just making that first decision, no matter how small, I can bypass some of those overwhelmed feelings. I’m able to break it down into little decisions instead of looking at it as a huge problem to be solved with one swipe.

On this trip we had to decide 1) if we were even going to go, 2) when to book, 3) who to watch our cats, 4) how to get to the airport, and countless other small decisions. Thinking about all of these at once drew me into panic, but breaking it down into what decision needed to be made first and then which followed made it so much more manageable. Which takes me to my next point:

3) Make a list 

As I said, I’m a list maker. I have daily to do lists, weekly to do lists, grocery lists, goals lists, books to read lists. I have lists on my phone, lists in my planner, lists on the wall. I might be a little Type A in needing order. However, just the act of making the list often makes me feel 10 times better than I feel before it was made. Only through writing things down am I able to break tasks into more manageable sizes and maybe even see that I don’t actually have as much to do as I thought. That’s exactly what happened with this trip- when I wrote down the things that needed to get done, I realized that I was already in a good place and didn’t really need to do as much as I thought once those few first decisions were made.

With the mush that has been my brain with two small people running around, the act of getting things on paper or at least in my phone makes sure that I’m able to remember them. Otherwise, those thoughts get lost. Or else, they’re swimming around in my brain trying not to get lost, and I’m not able to focus on the task at hand. Writing them all down keeps everything in order, or at least helps me to remember what I need to do to get things into order.

4) Lean on the people around you

This has been the biggest help for me on this current trip.  When we first started thinking about what we were going to do, Tony was able to talk everything through with his boss who has been through his fair share of hurricanes in FL.  We were also really lucky to have my parents be flexible enough to take us in at last moment’s notice. Tony’s parents will host us for a couple days as well while we’re here for the week- so it’s turning out to be a random and fun family vacation. 

While it’s easier to lean on family (usually), we were also given the opportunity to lean on others that weren’t so easy.  After just introducing ourselves to the neighbors across the hallway a couple weeks ago, we decided that they would be the best people to ask to check in on our cats (if they weren’t also leaving- which they weren’t!).  I made Tony go ask them- because I’m a chicken- and they were more than happy to come over once a day and make sure that the cats had food, water, and litter changed. This was one of our biggest anxiety points, so it was so so good to be able to lean on people that we hardly know.  And such a lesson for us in reaching out too!

While, this trip was not on my calendar, none of it was planned, and we had to just wing a lot of it, we have been having a really great time so far.  A lot of times, the changed plans are actually some of the best ones! The unexpected surprises end up being way better than anything I could have come up with on my own. By stopping my mind from running away with the what-if’s, I’m able to actually be in the moment and enjoy it more.  With that said, let’s hope that there are no more changes in plans on the way home on Saturday and that all goes smoothly!

We pray for all of those who did end up in the path of the hurricane, that the damage is small and that all are safe. 


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John the Baptist- He Must Increase; I Must Decrease

John the Baptist- He Must Increase; I Must Decrease
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Today is John the Baptist’s second feast day- the celebration of his death/martyrdom.  When I was planning this post, I was going to write about how we can “prepare the way of the Lord” just as John the Baptist did. But it wasn’t flowing. Part of this could be because I kept getting interrupted by a baby who insisted on waking up every 45 minutes until I finally realized he had a poopy diaper.  But, I think it was really because we don’t need to prepare the way anymore- Jesus has already come! He’s done His work, is doing His work.  Instead, we need to be in relationship. We need to put Jesus at the center of our lives and allow Him to do work within us so that we may find our calling. Then, we need to introduce him to others, so that they may find that relationship and calling too.

Who is John the Baptist?

John the Baptist was a somewhat strange figure in the Bible- he wandered the desert sharing his teachings, clothed himself in camel’s hair, and lived by eating locusts and honey.  He was bold with his words, calling out tax collectors for taking more than their share, soldiers for practicing extortion, and even the king for marrying his brother’s wife. Yet, despite his brusque attitude and wild demeanor, he gathered quite a following. He baptized these followers with water as a sign of their repentance and their turn to God. He then baptized Jesus, though he felt unworthy to even “loosen the thongs of his sandals” (Luke 3:16). 

Often we feel unworthy to do the work that God has called us to do, too. Who are we to bring people to Jesus, to make change in the world, or even to parent little humans? Nobody trained us for this.  But nobody trained John the Baptist either- he heard his call and followed it, setting the stage for the Savior of the World to come. This saying has been bringing me peace lately, “When God put a calling on your life, he already factored in your stupidity.”  God knows who we are intimately, and still calls us to do the things we are meant to do. John the Baptist- He Must Increase; I Must Decrease - what John the Baptist has to teach us about finding our purpose and living the life we're meant to live #Christianmotherhood #johnthebaptist #findyourcalling

Prayer Comes First

Since we aren’t trained for the calling, it helps to be in relationship with Jesus.  I find that when I’ve put aside my prayer time or fallen out of taking time for God, everything else also goes by the wayside. I become more overwhelmed in my everyday tasks. I don’t feel any clear directions as to what we should do next. There’s no peace. But after writing about my Martha heart and starting to put some of those practices into place, I’ve had so much more peace. I’ve been able to solo parent this week with little stress (other than the now incoming hurricane!). I’ve been able to be a better mom. I’ve felt more of where Jesus is calling us next. There’s been no clear signs or written down instructions by any means, but I’ve re-centered my life on Jesus and all of these things just seemed to follow.

John the Baptist- He Must Increase; I Must Decrease - what John the Baptist has to teach us about finding our purpose and living the life we're meant to live #Christianmotherhood #johnthebaptist #findyourcalling

He Must Increase, I Must Decrease

When asked how he felt about Jesus also doing baptisms, John the Baptist said “he must increase; I must decrease” (John 3:30).  He knew that Jesus’ baptism was greater than the one that he offered. He knew that his preparations for the Lord were now complete and it was now time to turn hearts to the man who mattered the most. His actions were to point to Jesus. But, he wanted to be sure this was the right man, as most of us wonder at some time or another too. He sent some of his followers to ask Jesus if he was the Messiah or if they should keep looking. Jesus answered by healing them, taking away their demons, curing their diseases, and said “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard” (Luke 7:23a).  He let his actions speak for themselves.

We’re called to let our actions speak for themselves, or rather for Jesus, too. We must act as Christ acted, because He acted. This looks different for each of us. For me, I think a part of it is starting this blog and sharing my own journey so that others may come along. I think an even bigger portion of my calling includes being the best mother that I can be, bringing my children to Jesus and allowing Him to work in their lives. By centering my life on Jesus, I’m drawn into action. I need to become the best version of myself because that’s who I’m made to be. I, then, have the privilege of helping my children become the best versions of themselves. I also have this privilege with my husband and with all of the others that God has brought into my life. 

Let Jesus Work Through You

What I need to remember, though, is it is not my duty to change hearts as it was for John the Baptist. I can only lead by example, spread kindness and truth, and be the best that I can be. Because Jesus has come, I only need to introduce Him and let Him do the work in other’s lives- He must increase, I must decrease.  It is never my doing, but God working through me, fulfilling the purpose he has for me. This is a little disheartening, but also completely freeing. While I may not get all of the credit, I also don’t have to know exactly what I’m doing every second of the day.  Instead, I can ask Jesus to work his magic through me, and He will.

John the Baptist’s purpose was to prepare the way of the Lord. That’s literally what the angels told his father when he was put into his mother’s womb. He fulfilled his purpose, the way was made, Jesus has come. Now it’s our turn. Let’s build up our relationship with Jesus so that we may also discover our purpose. Let’s let Jesus do his work inside of us. Let’s introduce people to Jesus by our words and by our actions. Most importantly, we need to remember John the Baptist’s words, “He must increase; I must decrease.” 

If you’re looking to get to know Mary a little bit better check out one of the following books! 

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Yes Spaces- Why are they important?

Yes Spaces- Why are they important?
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We’re thinking about babyproofing in the Bird household this week. We’ve already done all the basics- nailed furniture to the walls, put in outlet covers, put bumpers on the sharp corners, etc. Even so, as Charlie is getting more and more mobile, he seems to continually be finding new places to get into that I really wish he wouldn’t. His favorite right now is playing with the phone chargers when we forget to put the cords up- and he just figured out that the garbage can opens and shuts this morning! I guess it’s time to get our apartment back into a state of being a yes space.

What is a yes space?

A yes space is a place where kiddos can explore and check everything out without having to be redirected a million times. It is a place where there is nothing dangerous or fragile that they can get into. How babyproofed a place needs to be to fit this standard may vary from person to person. For example, because I’m around the kids more, I have a higher comfort level with different objects than Tony, who automatically assumes they’re going to choke on everything and/or poke their eyes out. I’m working to find somewhere in the middle so that he can feel comfortable when he is watching the kids but they can still have some toys out 😉 .
In the Bird Household, our yes spaces don’t have any decorations or items we care about in places where the kids can grab them. Instead, they’re filled with toys, books, stuffed animals, and other play things that the kids can get to without having to ask for help. Our spaces are not very pretty or organized, but they get the job done! We keep things like paints, Play-Doh, and some of Nora’s smaller toys higher up so that Nora can still see them, but has to ask to play with them. It’s pretty Montessori in concept though the way that we put it into practice throughout our home doesn’t quite fit that style.

Why is having a yes space important?
1) It allows a mental break from saying no

Apparently, the average one-year old hears the word “no” about 400 times a day. That’s a lot of no’s! I definitely believe it though because even Nora is starting to copy my “No, Charlie, no!” as he’s running away during diaper changes, splashing in the cats’ water dish, or pulling books on top of himself. This starts to be a drain on a child, but it also is draining for me. When our yes spaces are not set up right, I have to constantly be on the watch, making sure they don’t get into things they’re not supposed to. I have to be the “mean” parent who stops them in their tracks while they’re having fun, saying no or stop at every turn. Instead, by creating a space where they can do pretty much everything, I don’t have to focus my mental energies on what they can’t do. I can pay attention to the cute things they’re doing, read to one of them while the other plays, or actually get something productive done without worrying!

2) I can get tasks done around the house

Sometimes I have to get something done around the house. And by sometimes, I mean there’s always something I could be doing. Every so often, I can get the kids to play by themselves in one of our yes spaces and get some of these somethings done. I can take 3 minutes to throw the load of laundry over while they play in Nora’s room. They can take apart the toy kitchen while I wash the dreaded high chair tray and put away breakfast. I can sweep the floors yet again while they play in the living room with their tunnel. While I, of course, am always within hearing distance so I know they’re not killing themselves or each other, I’m not super worried about rushing through the task to be back watching them.

3) I can get a quiet time break

When Nora was 15 months, she was still an awful sleeper. Around this point, we experimented and found that we could leave her in her room and after a couple minutes of being angry, she’d play or read books in her room until she fell asleep- for her nap and bedtime! It was one of the best things that ever happened to us. Now that she’s about 50/50 on whether or not she takes a nap, we’re doing the same thing. She can hang out and play in her room for a couple hours until she falls asleep or not, and I can get my much needed quiet time. Charlie is just at the point where I can leave him in his crib to play for a bit, but no putting himself to sleep quite yet. Hopefully, he can figure that trick out soon!

4) It gives the kids a chance to explore and play on their own without needing me to set their boundaries

I think this is actually the most important point. Kids need an opportunity to learn by themselves and test boundaries without someone swooping in and figuring it out for them. I know I can be guilty of doing just this when I’m sitting right down with them. By taking the time away (or just sitting on the couch scrolling on my phone…), they are able to have that independent playtime they need so desperately to learn and to create their own stories instead of having me right there to create them for them. By having a yes space, they’re able to beebop around at their leisure and check things out without me hounding over them making sure they’re not doing something they’re not supposed to. It’s also allowing them to start their own relationship as siblings when I’m not right there coaching them how to interact.

What we’re doing to create yes spaces

We attempt to make our whole house a yes space, but that’s not totally manageable all the time (I need to find a new home for Charlie’s beloved toilet bowl brushes- yuck!) Right now, we have our living room area and Nora’s bedroom set up so that they’re definitely safe for Nora and mostly safe for Charlie. (If only he didn’t pull all of the books off the shelf onto himself…) I also have been utilizing the crib with a couple books/toys as a place to put Charlie for a short period of time to clean a poopy cloth diaper, to put away laundry without it getting pulled right back out, or even to take a really quick shower. Yes spaces I’ve seen in others’ houses are playrooms (my dream!) or a big gated off portion of a room.
I’m realizing that we need to be better about keeping all of Nora’s little pieces of toys in either a separate space or away while Charlie is awake so that they don’t become choking hazards. It also seems we have to find new places for some of our cords or at least a way to keep them up and out of the way. My philosophy on babyproofing is to babyproof as we go (after the big things like strapping furniture to the wall), and I seem to have gotten a little behind! It’s time to put locks on all the cabinets and drawers I don’t want things pulled out of and maybe even the garbage can and toilets. Whatever I can do to make our home a safe space for the kids to roam, experiment, and not hear “no” all day long will contribute to making our house a somewhat peaceful place for me and a yes space for them.

I want to know what you all do to make your homes into yes spaces! I’d love to see pictures of what you guys are doing and tips of your babyproofing methods – comment below or on Facebook, or send me a message! I look forward to seeing what you’re doing 🙂
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Mama’s Inspired by Books Too- August Edition

Mama’s Inspired by Books Too- August Edition
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Hey friends, I am starting up a monthly post in which I share the books that are inspiring me that month. Instead of wasting time on Facebook or my super addicting coloring app, I’ve been attempting to read more again- and not just parenting books! I’m finding that it is super important for my mental health with two small kiddos to make time for myself that isn’t turning my brain even more into mush. When I read, I not only get to practice a little escapism, but also I fill my brain and my heart up with new and inspiring ideas. The books I’ve been reading lately have definitely been calls to action and probably one of the reasons that I started this blog in the first place. I hope that one (or more!) of them may call your name and that you’ll be inspired by these books too!

Inspired by Books, Everybody Always, Bob Goff

1) Everybody, Always: Becoming Love in a World Full of Setbacks and Difficult People by Bob Goff

I actually read this one several months ago now, but it was so good that I needed to share it here. This book is the follow up book to Love Does, which I actually have yet to read, so you can read them out of order without worry. Bob is a Christian speaker, author, lawyer, and father and strings many of his crazy experiences in with lessons he’s learned over the years. Each of these focuses on how important it is to give love to everyone you see no matter how they are to you or what it costs you. It made me want to break out of my introverted shell and actually talk to people when we’re out and about and, in doing so, push myself to do the uncomfortable thing that is loving on the strangers in my life. I’m really not great at this, but I’m working on it!

This book, and the next one on this list, also inspired me to actually meet our neighbors after living in our apartment for over a year.  I baked some cookies and awkwardly knocked on two of their doors (including the downstairs neighbors we’ve been scared of because our children are crazy, and we have wood floors). They turned out to be decently nice people and now we say hi to the people across the way whenever we see them out walking their dog.  Little steps in loving others make us better humans.

“Jesus talked to His friends a lot about how we should identify ourselves. He said it wouldn’t be what we said we believed or all the good we hoped to do someday. Nope, He said we would identify ourselves simply by how we loved people. It’s tempting to think there is more to it, but there’s not. Love isn’t something we fall into; love is someone we become.” – Bob Goff, Everybody Always

Inspired by Books, The Grace of Enough, Haley Stewart2) The Grace of Enough: Pursuing Less and Living More in a Throwaway Culture by Haley Stewart

I just finished this book, and it was exactly what I needed to read right now. Haley talks about the cognitive dissonance between consumerism/the throwaway culture and living out the Gospel. It goes into the importance of slowing down and simplifying life, of focusing on the family home, and of creating a community of friends through breaking bread together.  She shares how her family made the radical decision to quit their jobs and move halfway across the country, away from extended family, to start a life doing an internship on a sustainable farm with no flushing toilets, all with three small kiddos. Just thinking about it makes me get a little anxious, and it did her too, as she quotes Mother Angelica, “Faith is one foot on the ground, one foot in the air, and a queasy feeling in the stomach.”  By taking a leap of faith, this seemingly crazy life change brought them closer to each other, to the Earth, and to God.

This book made me want to do something similarly crazy, except we don’t know what we’d want to do or where we’d want to go- I don’t think farming is for us ;).  Maybe, it’s as easy as starting off in our own home by slowing things down and not focusing on all the “stuff” that gets in the way of creating an intentional family culture.  Or maybe, it’s just giving ourselves over to the uncomfortable interactions we have with others and building up the community that we’re already surrounded by.  Overall, this book was a huge call out to me, and I’m interested to see where God is planning to take me (and Tony if I can convince him to read it!) next.

“Life is an adventure orchestrated by God, and our attempts to be in the driver’s seat will always result in mere frustration. Why? Because this is not the way of authentic love, which involves the total surrender of self. Authentic love calls for sacrifice. That is true of all of us. Whether it’s being up with a baby all night, caring for an aging parent, giving a hurting friend a landing place in your home for a while, or becoming a foster parent, we will be called on to sacrifice.” -Haley Stewart, The Grace of EnoughInspired by Books- Love Lives Here, Maria Goff3) Love Lives Here: Finding What You Need in a World Telling You What You Want by Maria Goff

This book was actually written by the wife of the first book I listed. Where her husband, Bob, is an extrovert going out into the world and doing really big and important things, Maria is an introvert mostly staying at home and creating an intentional environment for her kids and husband to come home to. She talks about how often it is the small intentional decisions that we are making that really make the biggest difference in our families and in our lives.  Maria also shares how important rest is when we invest so much of ourselves into the people around us- something that I desperately needed to read.

I so loved her viewpoint as a stay at home mother in the background, as that’s often the part of the family that I take on. The points that she shared about creating an environment that is peaceful and loving for my children and husband to be home in have really hit home.  I don’t want the first thing that Tony feels when he comes home from work to be my anger and frustration with how my day has been going.  Now, I’m not talking 50’s housewife here, but by greeting Tony with a smile and not immediately going into all of the drama that my day has entailed, I am able to set a much happier tone for the rest of our evening.

“Ability is what we can already do; an ambition is who we want to become… I try to focus my time on doing things that serve and advance the most lasting and beautiful of my ambitions. The kind Jesus talked to His friends about. Figure out what those are for you, and do more of that.” – Maria Goff, Love Lives Here

Inspired by Books- Anne of Green Gables4) The Anne of Green Gables Collection: Anne Shirley Books 1-6 by L. M. Montgomery

I’m trying to figure out how to get back into fiction books and which ones are worth reading when there are so many to choose from at the library. I decided to start by going back to the classics. By scrolling through my Hoopla app (containing ebooks and audiobooks from the library), I found this collection and thought I’d give it a try. I vaguely remember reading these when I was younger, but a lot of the story is reading new to me. If you haven’t read the Anne of Green Gables books, I definitely recommend them, and if you haven’t read them as an adult, I’d recommend going back and reading them. Since I’m reading it in ebook form, I’ve been able to read it on my phone while I’m nursing Charlie back to sleep for the 4th time that night, allowing me to get a little more reading in during an otherwise “wasted” time.  I’m currently on the third book, and they are just so good for my soul.

Anne has such a beautiful, childlike whimsy about her that has been rubbing off on the way I’m seeing the world right now. It’s helping me to see more of the positives and to look at life with more of a childlike lens.  I’m remembering the importance of having an imagination and of using it to change what might seem like a bad situation into a good one.  Anne is the type of character I’m excited to introduce my kiddos to in the future- kind, but bold, and always striving to do her best in her life and in the lives of those around her. These are such sweet books and really easy reads for those of you who have mushy brains like me right now!

“Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.” – L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

“After all,” Anne had said to Marilla once, “I believe the nicest and sweetest days are not those on which anything very splendid or wonderful or exciting happens but just those that bring simple little pleasures, following one another softly, like pearls slipping off a string.” – L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Avonlea

I’ve been having such a great time getting back into reading- it’s kind of fun to be sneaking another chapter in after my self-instilled bedtime! (#OnceANerdAlwaysANerd) I hope you’ll be inspired by these books too! I’d love to hear what you’re reading right now.  Comment below or share with me on Facebook what you’re reading- I have quite the stack waiting to be read right now, and I’m always looking for more suggestions of what to add to the list next!

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Enter Simply Mama Bird

Enter Simply Mama Bird
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When I restarted the Tony and Holly Wing It blog a month ago, I wasn’t sure whether I was going to like it or if I would really want to go anywhere with it.  So I wrote a couple of posts and dipped my toes in the water. I’ve found that I really enjoy writing publicly and want to continue doing it in a more legit fashion.  Enter Simply Mama Bird! I’m excited to really hit the ground running with this new and improved “Winging It” blog. It is giving me a creative outlet outside of mothering that I have been really craving lately.  It also has fulfilled a calling that I’ve had on my heart for awhile.

I hope to share my journey in living and loving intentionally with you all. This can look like a lot of different things. In our current stage of life, it looks like mothering my children as best as I can, being the wife that my husband needs, taking time for Jesus, and being a good steward of this earth. I hope to cover these topics (and more!) as I get into blogging more. I’d also love to hear what you guys want to know more about- let me do the research for you and give you our take on what we’re doing! Send me an email via the Contact Page or sign up for our newsletter below:

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I also realized that I never really gave the low down on what the Bird Family is doing with our lives right now- especially since everyone that I talk to is wondering how in the world we ended up in Tampa, FL!  Tony’s job has us moving pretty often right now as he moves through different roles to get him acquainted with different grocery businesses throughout the country. After living in Minneapolis, MN after college for a couple years, we moved to Grand Rapids, MI in July 2018.  Ten months later, we moved again to Tampa, Fl. While, it’s been a whirlwind, we’ve been able to do these moves pretty easily given that I stay at home with our two rugrats and his company takes care of a lot of the logistics for us. We have no idea what we want our “long term” location to be, so in the meantime we’re going with the flow with Tony’s job and enjoying being within 30 minutes of the beach as long as we’re in Florida. 

We have two sweet kiddos who run my days right now.  Nora is currently 2.5 and potty training. She’s got a strong, mostly sweet, personality and is quite particular (just like her mama, I’m told 😉 ).  She was our surprise honeymoon baby and turned our world upside down in the best way. Nora’s an adventure all on her own, and then we decided to add Charlie to the mix!  Charlie just turned 10 months and is a super happy little boy, most of the time. He’s crawling like a mad man and getting into so much more than Nora ever did. They’re both growing like weeds and keep me on my toes constantly. As they start playing together more, it has been so sweet to watch as their relationship begins. I feel so blessed to be these babies’ mother and can’t wait to see where life takes our little family. 

I hope that you’ll enjoy being a part of this blogging journey. I hope that you’ll find something here that inspires you or helps you on your own journey. I hope that every so often I’ll make you smile or laugh out loud. I hope that you’ll feel that I’m a part of your village, just as you are all mine. If you want to see what’s inspiring me daily, follow along with Simply Mama Bird on Facebook and/or Pinterest, and make sure to follow along in our newsletter for Bird Family updates!  Thanks for coming along for the adventure- it should be a wild ride!


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Fostering a Love of Books from Early On

Fostering a Love of Books from Early On
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After thinking through how we want to be intentional with our children’s books moving forward, I’m looking back at the things we have done so far to foster a love of books in Nora. Right now we feel like great parents who did everything right when it came to reading, but it’ll be super interesting to see if it was really just Nora and that we had nothing to do with it (like so much of parenting seems to be) or if Charlie will also find a love of reading. Either way, I’m trying to remember all that we did so that I can do my best to set Charlie (and any future children we may be blessed with) up to have a love of books too.

1) Start ‘em young

While I was pregnant, I read that it was important to expose your kiddos to books and all sorts of words from an early age, and I took that to heart. I remember feeling so silly reading to my one month old, but also it gave me a way to interact with Nora when I didn’t know quite what to do with a little baby. She didn’t really get into it until later into her first year, but some of those first snuggles with books are really special memories and ingrained into our little family a love of reading together that I hope will last. I think by introducing reading as a bonding activity from a really young age, we made it more accessible for both Nora and for us as she continued to develop. It became a go-to activity instead of an afterthought.

Embarrassingly, I kind of forgot that reading to small babies was a thing with Charlie until a couple months ago. I guess that’s the problem of the second child. However, he got to soak in all of the books that I was reading to Nora while he was also on my lap or wandering the room, so I don’t really feel too too bad. When I do remember to read just to him, he’s been really into all of the touch and feel books. His favorites right now are the “That’s not my…” series through Usborne and any of the Alphaprints ones. Nora liked those too, but Charlie LOVES them. Nora seemed to be more into books with rhyming like One, Two, Three! by Sandra Boynton (really anything by her is great!) and my personal favorite, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.  It’s been really interesting to watch as their tastes in toys, books, and activities already differ! If I recall Nora correctly, the flap books will come next developmentally for Charlie (though with his ability to destroy things, we might need to hold off for awhile!) Some of Nora’s favorites were Where Is Baby’s Belly Button? and the Usborne Little Red Penguin series, and I’m excited to bring those out for Charlie to read when he’s ready!

2) Never say no to reading and read often

As Nora became more interested in books, I did my best to read to her whenever she’d ask for as long as she would listen. We’d often read first thing in the morning while I was still coming to (I’m not really a morning person). It was a really sweet way to start our day, and I’m kind of sad that I’ve gone away from that in our new morning routine. Thinking about this now, I might have to start doing this again in our mornings! We have also always associated books with naptime and bedtime, and then sprinkled them throughout playtime. When we were trying to get Nora to sleep on her own (at 14 months…), we finally got to the point that we’d leave her in her room, and she’d read books for 5 minutes- 2 hours, and then finally fall asleep (our kids really aren’t fans of sleeping). We figured there was nothing wrong with her reading as long as she wanted if she eventually fell asleep!

Of course, I’ve had to start bending my “never say no to reading” rule now that her books are getting longer (those 5 Minute Stories add up!) and Charlie is needing more attention. I do still try to make a point of sitting down and reading with her for a good amount of time each day, though. I’m much better at reading than doing pretend voices for all of her animals, so it’s always my first suggestion during Charlie’s morning nap and my Nora alone time.

3) Be surrounded with books

We have books everywhere. There is a basket of children’s picture books in the living room, a basket of Charlie’s books next to the recliner, a bookshelf of board books in Nora’s room, and even potty training books on the toilet. Not to mention the books Nora carries into different rooms and forgets about. I think it’s so important to be in close reach of books as it makes it easier to pick up a book to start reading. It’s also, then, a reminder of reading as an activity to both the kiddos and to me. Charlie is just now starting to grab books out of his basket or off the shelf in Nora’s room, and while he’s doing it just to explore and make a mess, it reminds me that I should be reading to him (a reminder which I apparently need!).

We also like to make a point of reading books out and about. I like to have at least a couple books in the car for when we’re going places for Nora to read- this works well for books that are duplicated! I’m realizing that I should also start putting some in for Charlie too! Nora has a knack for finding books everywhere we go. There are sections of books at both the children’s museum and the mall we go to (it’s a really awesome, child-friendly mall!), and we also try to make it to the library at least once a week for Toddler Time and/or just to read. Reading out in the wild is way more exciting than at home! It’s also really good for us to switch up which books we are reading and find new ones that we might want to get for home.

4) There’s no such thing as too many books

We were blessed to have people gift a favorite book instead of a card for Nora’s baby shower to really start off our collection of books. Since then, between gifts and our own book-buying addiction, we’ve more than filled up Nora’s bookshelves. I get sick of reading the same stories over and over, so I like to have enough that we can mix it up a little bit. We currently have too many board books than what can fit on Nora’s shelf, so I rotate them once a week to freshen her up and make it seem like she has a whole new shelf of books to choose from. Nora LOVES new books, so this tends to work pretty well. Whenever an actually new book enters our household, Nora wants to read it what seems like hundreds of times in those first few days of having it. It’s fun to see that excitement come from something as simple as books.

As we grow out of our basket of children’s picture books, I’m looking at ways to store them. In our someday house, I’d love to have a playroom with a library wall (#bigdreams). I’m really eyeing up either this or this shelf so that we can start displaying our books with the fronts out instead of just the spines.

There’s a meme I saw on Facebook that sums up how I feel about this subject:

Usborne- too many books, not enough shelves

Tony and I love having our own books around and that addiction has poured over into our children’s books. We hope to foster a love of books in our family that continues throughout our children’s lives, as it has in ours. These are just some of the ways that we’ve attempted to do that with Nora, and it’ll be a wait and see if it also inspires the same love in Charlie.

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